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Secretary of State praises the BESN

Secretary of State Ed Davey recently featured in The Independent praising the work of the Big Energy Saving Network:

But one of his proudest achievements is the rarely mentioned Big Energy Saving Network. “I keep going on about it because I believe it’s really a very significant development and it’s the best £2m I’ve spent,” he says.

It’s a £1m a year programme – now in its second year – set up to support a range of organisations such as housing associations and the Citizens Advice Bureau deliver help and advice to vulnerable consumers. Project are led by specially-trained “Champions”, voluntary workers who co-ordinate the training of further volunteers and front line workers. They in turn advise consumers on how to cut energy bills through switching tariffs or payment method and exploring eligibility for the Warm Home Discount or energy efficiency offers.

“It’s important because it’s trusted third parties helping out,” Mr Davey points out, reflecting the fact that trust in our big energy firms among consumer is at an all-time low. “We’ve given these volunteers skills, training and confidence to be able to help vulnerable people deal with energy issues. It’s made a difference.”

The BESN Team are delighted that your hard work and continued effort in delivering the programme has been recognised by the Secretary of State.

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Energy bills explained

YouGov research on behalf of uSwitch found that 75% of people find energy bills confusing, and only 4 in 10 could understand the calculations on their bill.

uSwitch have created a short video on how to get the info from your bill that you need to switch, and they have also produced guidance on reading your energy bill which might be helpful for consumers. Have a look on their website.

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The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have released guidelines for commissioners, managers and health, social care and voluntary sector practitioners who deal with vulnerable people who may have health problems caused, or exacerbated, by living in a cold home. It will also be of interest to clinicians and others involved with at-risk groups, housing and energy suppliers.

This guideline makes recommendations on how to reduce the risk of death and ill health associated with living in a cold home. The aim is to help:
•Reduce preventable excess winter death rates.
•Improve health and wellbeing among vulnerable groups.
•Reduce pressure on health and social care services.
•Reduce ‘fuel poverty’ and the risk of fuel debt or being disconnected from gas and electricity supplies
•Improve the energy efficiency of homes.

Improving the temperature in homes, by improving energy efficiency, may also help reduce unnecessary fuel consumption.

A wide range of people are vulnerable to the cold. This includes:
•people with cardiovascular conditions
•people with respiratory conditions (in particular, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and childhood asthma)
•people with mental health conditions
•people with disabilities
•older people (65 and older)
•households with young children (from new-born to school age)
•pregnant women
•people on a low income.

The health problems associated with cold homes are experienced during ‘normal’ winter temperatures, not just during extremely cold weather. Year-round action by many sectors is needed to combat these problems. This includes:
•prioritising which homes are tackled first
•shaping and influencing the decisions about how homes are improved
•developing the research agenda.

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More people will enjoy a warmer home for less thanks to the third release from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) worth up to £70 million.

From midday, Monday 16 March, the popular scheme will open to new applications for the new release of funding, with up to £5,600 available to households in England and Wales to help with the cost of installing certain energy saving measures such as solid wall insulation, double glazing, boilers, cavity wall and floor insulation.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“We’re helping families keep warmer for less – driving bills down by encouraging more competition between energy suppliers and making over one million homes more energy efficient.
“Households up and down the country are reaping the benefits of a warmer home thanks to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund. And now, with more money available, thousands more can benefit.”

More than 25,000 households have already received a voucher for The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund since it launched in June 2014. For the third release of funding, money has been increased for the two measures offer. Domestic energy customers will be able to receive:
•up to £3750 for installing solid wall insulation;
•and/or up to £1250 for installing two measures from an approved list;
•up to £100 refunded for their Green Deal Assessment;
•up to £500 more if applying within 12 months of buying a new home.

The £70 million for the third release will be available for applications for solid wall insulation and/or the two measures offer until all the funding is allocated.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd said:

“This winter the government has helped people save money while keeping warm - taking an average of £50 off household bills and making it quicker and easier to switch supplier. But to cut bills every winter people need to use less energy.
“ We’ve already improved over one million homes to make them more energy efficient and we want to help more. Thanks to the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund thousands of families will enjoy lower bills and a warmer home for years to come.”

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Would you or your colleagues benefit from over 30 years of award-winning Fuel Poverty Training expertise? Why not take advantage of National Energy Action’s Training Voucher scheme?

Simply purchase a NEA training voucher now and redeem it any time in the financial year 2015-2016. Choose from the following courses or NEA can design a course to fit your needs:

City & Guilds Accredited Courses

• Level 3 Award in Energy Awareness 6281-01
• Level 2 Award in Fuel Debt Advice in the Community 6281-16
• Level 3 Award in Renewable Energy in the Home 6281-02
• Level 1 Award in Introduction to Household Energy Efficiency 6281-15

CPD Certified Short Courses

• Fuel Debt Advice in the Community
• Introduction to Energy Awareness and Fuel Poverty
• Energy Awareness Modular course
• Fuel Poverty and Health
• Identifying Vulnerability
• Smart Meter Training for Communities
• Smart Meter Training for Installers
• Tackling Fuel Poverty within Social Housing
• Understanding Fuel Poverty and Fuel Debt in Social Housing
• Energy Champions in Social Housing
• Train-the-Trainer: Delivering Community Presentations
• Introduction to Renewable Heat and Electricity in the Home

E-Learning Courses

• Level 3 Energy Awareness 6281-01
• Fuel Poverty and Health
• Fuel Bill Management

For further information see the NEA Training website here.

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The new fuel poverty strategy sets out a revolutionary approach to identifying and targeting England’s energy inefficient homes.

Future governments will now, for the first time, be required by law to tackle fuel poverty by making the coldest, leakiest homes in England more energy efficient.

This new fuel poverty strategy – the first for over a decade – outlines challenges and actions for the next 15 years to ensure future Governments take the right steps to tackle fuel poverty and get help to those who need it most.

A new legally binding target – in force since December 2014 – is at the heart of the new strategy. It requires a minimum standard of energy efficiency (Band C) for as many fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable by 2030.

Early measures to tackle the problem of fuel poverty and hit the new target include:
•New regulations so from April 2018 private landlords cannot rent out energy inefficient properties (homes with Energy Performance ratings below ‘E’)
•Tackling the problem of fuel poverty in off gas grid properties with a new £25 million fund to help people install central heating systems for the first time
•Extending the successful ECO scheme to 2017, so that a further 500,000 properties will be made cheaper and easier to heat, building on the one million homes that ECO and the Green Deal have helped in the last 2 years

The strategy prepares the ground for future new measures with a series of pilots focused on priority areas, ranging from health aspects of fuel poverty through to specific housing types like off gas grid properties and park homes.

A £3 million pot for such pilots will see £1 million released immediately to scale up local ‘warmth-on-prescription’ projects to help primary healthcare professionals such as GPs play a much larger part in tackling fuel poverty. In the coming months up to £2 million more will be released to support innovation pilots, not just in health but also for off gas grid, park homes and community energy approaches.

Unveiling the strategy, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“Today marks a crucial step towards a future free from cold homes and bloated energy bills in England. We now have a legally binding commitment to plug our draughtiest houses – adding to the 1 million homes we’ve made warmer and cheaper to heat.
“From tackling fuel poverty in the private rented sector to facing up properly to the challenges of rural off gas grid fuel poverty, this strategy marks a significant change from the old approach.
“Yet even as we implement new regulations and new spending priorities to make homes warmer, we are planning for the next phase of cutting fuel poverty, with a series of key pilots, especially into the link between improving health and cutting fuel poverty.”

Households in fuel poverty in the least energy efficient homes (Bands F and G) typically face energy costs that are £1,000 more than those in higher quality homes. To help focus support where it is needed most, the strategy introduces interim milestones to get as many as fuel poor homes as reasonably practicable up to a minimum energy efficiency rating of Band E by 2020 and Band D by 2025.

Minister for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd:

“We want the fall in levels of fuel poverty seen under this Government to continue - so that cold homes are gone for good.
“That’s the future we’re presenting, alongside our ambitious targets, so even more households can join the 1 million homes already reaping the benefits of lower energy bills and warmer homes this winter.”

Last month, the government laid draft regulations to introduce minimum energy efficiency standards that will see up to 1 million people renting from private landlords benefit from warmer and cheaper to heat homes. Many of the poorest tenants will benefit and, with government support, landlords can improve their properties at no upfront cost – and landlords will only have to make improvements that are cost-effective. This will be backed by a new law to give tenants the right from April 2016 to request consent for improvements that the landlord cannot unreasonably refuse.

Nearly 2 million heating and energy efficiency measures have already been installed across the country. With ECO being extended to 2017 an extra half a million people will be able to keep warm for less, including many low-income, vulnerable households. This is on top of half a billion pounds of investment in energy efficiency schemes over three years, including the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.

Dr Tim Ballard, Vice-Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said:

“The Royal College of GPs welcomes this new fuel poverty strategy. It marks an important turning point in acting on what we have known for some time: that cold homes contribute to the most vulnerable people being unhealthy and can even be lethal for them.
“The new strategy provides a long-term framework in which the health sector has a vital role to play, in partnership with Government. The new funding for health-related pilot projects is especially needed and will help build the case for more investment to cut the cost of warmth and help reduce the burden of cold homes on the health service.”

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BESN Final Report template and link to SurveyMonkey

A reminder that each Champion led project is required to submit a Final Report detailing your Big Energy Saving Network activity for the project as a whole. As you can see from the Final Report template, this covers information relating to monthly activity delivered in March as well as your overall project delivery across October 2014 – March 2015.

Your Final Report should be submitted via SurveyMonkey by the 20th March 2015. The link to SurveyMonkey is here.

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Heat Heroes Awards 2015

The Heat Heroes Awards, run by National Energy Action, aim to recognise individuals within communities in England and Wales who have made a significant contribution to helping those struggling with the effects of fuel poverty. This can be through work or through voluntary activities outside the workplace.

If you know of such a person (perhaps a BESN Champion or Volunteer?) please send NEA a submission of no more than 500 words, outlining the contribution the individual has made to people in fuel poverty and why you think the individual deserves to win.

The Awards are open to not-for-profit organisations including local authorities, health and social care agencies, voluntary and statutory agencies and community groups.

Entries must be returned by 31 March 2015. The winners will be presented with their awards at a special event in the House of Commons on 30 June 2015.

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Fuel Poverty Forums in February & March

Are you involved in helping people to live in warmer, healthier homes? Do you work in the energy, housing, health, regeneration, advice or community sectors? Yes? Then read on ...

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action holds regional Fuel Poverty Forums three times per year throughout England and Wales.

Fuel Poverty Forums ...

•Are aimed at strategic policy makers and front line service providers
•Examine policy and practical initiatives related to fuel poverty and delivering energy efficiency solutions at a local, regional and national level
•Showcase innovative provision and best practice
•Promote dialogue and discussion on a wide range of sectoral issues.

Topics discussed at recent forums have included:

•Renewables and other technologies - the implications for fuel poverty programmes
•Home ventilation and air quality including finding solutions for hard to heat homes
•Utility Energy Efficiency Commitment schemes
•Changes to the Building Regulations - part L
•Social Action Plan
•Progress with the Home Energy Conservation Bill
•And much more ...

Interested in knowing more? ... then attend the next free forum in your region. Check out dates on the NEA website

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Booking is now open for this year's NEA annual conference which will be held at Sheffield City Hall from Monday 14 - Wednesday 16 September 2015. Further details, including themes and speakers, will be announced in the spring.

NEA is currently offering a range of discounts for booking early:

• Book and pay for your delegate place by 31 March 2015 and receive a 20% discount
• Book and pay for your delegate place between 1 April-30 June 2015 and receive a 10% discount

These discounts are in addition to the usual discounts for NEA members.

For more information and to book your place visit the NEA website.

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Energy Efficiency Best Practice Awards

**Closing date Friday 13 March**

Are you involved in helping to improve energy efficiency in your local community?

British Gas and fuel poverty charity National Energy Action are inviting applications for the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Awards. Eight organisations with a track record of delivering projects to save energy and reduce CO2 will win up to £5000 to help them in future energy-saving initiatives.

The awards will support the British Gas and NEA Community Action Partnership, which is being delivered with councils across the UK. The scheme is open to not-for-profit and statutory agencies delivering projects in the following locations:

• City of Cardiff
• Northamptonshire
• Walsall
• Enfield
• Barking and Dagenham
• Greater Manchester
• North East of England (Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, County Durham)
• Liverpool

To apply download the guidance notes here and the application form here.

For more information visit the NEA website or contact Claire Henderson, telephone 0191 269 2909.

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The Final Report for the Evaluation of the 2013/14 Big Energy Saving Network has been published today. This evaluation aims to review the following:

• the impact of the programme on different types/groups of vulnerable individuals
• the effectiveness of programme processes at each stage of the implementation
• the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the programme.

Highlights from the report include:

• The programme was successful in reaching over 90,000 low-income and vulnerable consumers – around 16,000 via workshops and a further 78,000 through frontline workers.
• Nearly one third of attendees to BESN workshops got in touch with their energy supplier about their tariffs, or switched supplier, or applied for an ECO assessment.
• Around half (51%) say they now spend less on heating their home because of their engagement with the BESN.

Data was gathered through a combination of methods including surveys and in-depth interviews with champions, volunteers, frontline workers and participants, and the analysis of programme monitoring data. This report discusses the outputs of this, covering insights into the theory behind BESN, how it was delivered in practice and what it achieved. The BESN Team would like to thank everyone who took part in the evaluation and for your valued contributions.

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February Monthly Summary Report

Your Monthly Summary covering BESN activity in February is due by the 28th February via SurveyMonkey.

It is vital that we receive a Report from individual Champions so we can get a clear idea of all BESN activity and keep in touch with you. It is important that you also complete and save an electronic copy of the information submitted in your report for your own record. The quickest way to do this, is to complete the Word template of the report, save it and then use this to ‘paste’ your answers into SurveyMonkey.

The link to access SurveyMonkey to complete your February report is here (please only access this link when you are ready to complete your entry in one-sitting). If you experience any difficulties whilst submitting your monthly report contact us at (remembering to include your BESN reference number so we can easily identify your organisation).

The format of the BESN Final Report, due on the 20th March, is likely to be very similar to the Interim Report and so it is crucial that you keep a record of the information included in your Monthly Summary reports to help you fill in the data required for the Final Report. A template for the Final Report will be circulated to the Network shortly.

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Have you got a question about how the government is helping people to manage their energy bills and keep warm? Perhaps you’d like to know what’s being done to help older and vulnerable people with their energy needs?

Baroness Verma from the Department of Energy & Climate Change will be taking part in a live webchat with Gransnet on Monday 23 February (12.30-13.30). Get your questions in now!

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Fair play for prepay

Citizens Advice have launched a film about the experiences of pay-as-you-go energy customers, the problems they face and what they want suppliers to do in order to give consumers a fairer deal. Have a look at the film here

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